DayBreaks for 7/15/15: A Hard Truth About Forgiveness
From the DayBreaks archive, 7/15/2005:
There seem to be few things as hard for us humans to do as to forgive someone else. I know that’s not true of everyone, but if you’ve ever really been hurt badly, you know what I’m talking about. Some seem to be able to forgive more easily than others. I know that if I’d endured some of the things that some of the DayBreaks readers have endured, I don’t know if I could forgive those who have done those things.
Some say that the key to forgiveness is understanding – that if we understood the person who did the hurting, if we knew their own pain, the circumstances of their life or even of the given day when they hurt us, then we’d easily be able to forgive them. It’s sort of like saying that if we’d walked a mile in their shoes, we’d understand the source of their bitterness, violence, anger and hatred – and we’d someone be able to forgive them more easily. I suppose that to a certain degree, there is truth in that concept. But it’s too simple – forgiveness that comes easily either doesn’t really understand the depth of the hurt (like hiding our heads in the sand), nor does it seem to deal with the reality of the deepest hurts humans can experience: the loss by violence of a child, a rape, abuse, rejection.
So, while there may be some truth to the concept that “to know all is to forgive all”, there’s also a lot of bad theology associated with that idea, too. As John Ortberg pointed out, “Forgiveness is what is required precisely when there is no good rationale to explain away whey someone did what they did.” He’s on to something. If bad behavior can be explained away because of someone’s indigestion, their own upbringing, their own hurts – well, forgiveness isn’t really needed too much in such a case, is it? It’s when we can’t think of a good reason to forgive someone that we’re most likely to hold onto our grudge and nurse it along. And that’s exactly when forgiveness gets expensive – because we then have to forgive without a good reason to do so. Well, that is, without a reason except one: that God forgave us without a good reason to do so. To forgive when you can’t think of a good reason why you should – that’s like God’s forgiveness to us.
Ps 130:3-4 – LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.
PRAYER: Lord, we delude ourselves thinking we can master our temptations and manage our sinfulness! Save us from this foolishness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.
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